I don’t want to write this. I really don’t want to write this. I cannot remember weeping actual tears before over the death of a person I have never met. But the announcement of earthly departure of Chadwick Boseman led to such a depth of sadness and a long day of weeping. So, I really didn’t want to write this.
In the title, I call him Brother Chadwick, not only in solidarity, but also because in age and manner, he could easily be my older brother. But I call him brother in solidarity too. When you look at the words he spoke, the film choices he made, you know he put so much thought into the legacy he was leaving behind. Much thought to every step. Every line. Every look. Every film.
Jackie Robinson in 42
James Brown in Get on Up
Jacob King in Message from the King
Thurgood Marshall in Marshall
and of course T’Challa / Black Panther in the four Marvel Avengers movies.
Director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler, in his tribute to Chadwick Boseman, talks about how Chadwick brought this deep thought to the process of creating the movie Black Panther.
‘When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. …. I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game. All while putting in the work. And work he did.’
It is amazing, stunning and inspiring that Chadwick did most of his memorable work after a cancer diagnosis, during treatments for cancer and most likely while enduring chronic pain.
In 2019, I wrote about how fighting for social justice, [anti-racism specifically], means that many of us work double the amount our bodies are meant to, how we are unable to take time to rest and recover properly.
I often use these famous words of Ella Baker in my lectures and presentations, as an exhortation, an inspiration to continue despite despair, till those fights for freedom are successful. But with the passing on of our Brother Chadwick, I have been reflecting on what those words actually mean: We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We actually cannot. If the world was different, not enfolded as it is, into oppressive and exploitative structures of racism, ableism, misogyny and capitalism [among others] I suspect that Chadwick may have taken time off work after his diagnosis. Maybe. But ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest.’
So I don’t really know what words of comfort to leave with us the left behind. However, some words that I have found comforting, come from the final episode of the final season of The Good Place, spoken by the eternal philosopher, Chidi Anangonye:
“Picture a wave. In the ocean. You can see it, measure it, its height, the way the sunlight refracts when it passes through. And it’s there. And you can see it, you know what it is. It’s a wave.
And then it crashes in the shore and it’s gone. But the water… the water is still there. The wave was just a different way for the water to be, for a little while… the wave returns to the ocean, where it came from and where it’s supposed to be.”
Chadwick Boseman was a mighty wave, crashed upon the shore… Now he is gone. And his work is still here. He is still here… in a different way. But his body has gone to his rest now. Where he is supposed to be. Hallelujah. He is an ancestor now. Ase.
I hope we do better. Work together. Change the world. So that we can believe in freedom. And rest. And in our rest, remember Chadwick Boseman, our brother in solidarity and in hope. Our inspiration and real-life superhero. Remember the legacy. And the man. Chadwick Forever! He is where is supposed to be. Resting.